“Both MarCO-A and B say ‘Polo!'”
As the Robinson Family Aerospace Mission celebrates the 10th Anniversary of the Phoenix Mars Lander, we are also tracking InSight, the sister mission to Phoenix.
On May 5, 2018, InSight launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California carrying twin MarCO CubeSats.
Though the MarCo CubeSats launched with InSight, the twin briefcase-sized spacecrafts have missions of their own. Being miniature spacecrafts, the CubeSats serve as a test for scientists to see how well smaller spacecrafts operate in space. The use of the MarCO CubeSats are also paramount to scientists because the twin spacecrafts provide real-time data relay. Since InSight does not have a direct-to-earth link during its landing, the CubeSats will be able to provide real-time updates.
By all accounts, the miniature spacecrafts are performing well and have been successfully communicating with scientists. According to Andy Klesh, the chief engineer for the MarCO mission, “Both MarCO-A and B say ‘Polo!’ It’s a sign that the little sats are alive and well.”
After InSight launched, the first two signals that the CubeSats sent were received at 3:15 p.m. EST (12:15 p.m. PST) and 4:58 p.m. EST (1:58 p.m. PST).
MarCO’s Project Manager Joel Krajewski of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory stated, “A lot of work went into designing and testing these components so that they could survive the trip to Mars and relay data during InSight’s landing. But our broader goal is to learn more about how to adapt CubeSat technologies for future deep-space missions.”